Last night, while trying to figure out why Premiere kept locking up and dying on me while editing video, I got an email from NCsoft’s PR asking if we wanted to talk to ArenaNet’s Colin Johanson about the recent March 26th Guild Wars 2 update: The Razing. Focused largely on world versus world upgrades, Living Story continuation, with other tasty nuggets in the periphery, it seems The Razing has made the game’s WvW PVP action the talk of the town all over again. The Eternal Battlegrounds and their sister battlegrounds are seeing insanely high participation numbers which match and even exceed the activity initially seen at launch. It seems that the Razing is, for lack of a better word, a “hit” with the player-base. I spoke to Colin about the ingredients that made this so, and where we’ll see WvW and the Living Story head in the future. Read on.
No More Culling’s Effect on WvW
As stated above, the biggest portion of this patch was driven towards the World vs. World experience and polishing it up for players who crave that sort of large-scale epic battle game. In response to the update, after rectifying a pressing issue on Tuesday with a hotfix, the WvW experience has seen an incredible surge of activity that rivals and at times exceeds the game’s early days and honeymoon period. Colin said it’s become GW2’s most successful event, even though they’re just beginning to expand upon the WvW experience.
Even though Colin, by his words, “got crushed” by two different servers while participating in a tower defense, it was amazing to see hundreds of players on the screen at once charging the tower, attacking, and working like an army. While the new progression, titles, and rewards may be enough to lure people into WvW, Colin’s confident that the fact it all feels much more massive now with the culling fixed and eradicated is likely the real factor in holding people’s attention. Before, with culling an issue, it was hard to really see the size and scope of WvW... now? Not so much.
But on the subject of the new WvW progression, Colin said that the early numbers are showing lots of people picking up Damage Against Guards and Armor Against Guards as the leader in what people spend points on first. But he wants people to know that these few passive WvW abilities, though plenty to aim for, is not the end of what they plan on adding to the WvW progression system: “A big part of what [our World vs. World team] is going to do in the future is adding new abilities and stuff to this list. And we may not just do passive abilities.” They really view this as a key component of the WvW experience, and it’s just the beginning. They will be giving more and more reason to make you want to fight, not just at a personal character level, but also on a server-pride level.
There are likely going to be new and different home-maps, new map objectives, new things to do in World vs. World all around, because now that it’s gotten to the point where it’s rock-solid technically they get to decide where it grows from here. To build on that game-type and take it to a whole new level. So now they’re all coming together and deciding where to go with the system to give it a lot more variety from week to week and day to day.
The Living Story and Bye-Bye Talking Heads
One of the things they’re most proud of, small as it might be, is the way in which the Living Story ditched the “talking heads” vignettes players experienced all throughout their 1-80 personal story and instead opted for the more immediate and in-game voiced cinematics that are a lot more like Guild Wars 1. The talking heads took you out of the game each time, and ultimately Colin said that this more traditional representation of the character interaction just feels better and much less jarring.
But the Living Story is also all about giving players things to do in the Open World, and driving them into scripted story content on occasion (as seen in the new Rox and Braham missions with The Razing). Colin admitted that the Flame and Frost series of events may have begun slow, with small changes but that it’s all just leading up to a boiling point with the Razing. He even said that we haven’t yet seen anything when it comes to what they have planned for the Living Story, and that players can expect even more from The Razing chapter very soon.
They want players to be able to log in every week, every month, and see real meaningful things happening in the game world. Even the dynamic events they launched with were just the tip of the iceberg. Yes things like centaurs raiding a village can change the world temporarily, until the players or a timer changes it back. That’s not quite what their goal is with the Living Story. Colin and the team at ArenaNet want new regions opened up, cities burnt down, and areas discovered by the players. Lasting and meaningful changes is the ultimate goal of the Living Story, all serving a greater narrative. They want you to look back three years from now, maybe see a monument in a town commemorating a battle or fallen heroes, and say “Oh yeah, I was here when this happened. I took part in it.”
PVP Leaderboards - Activated Next Week (They Hope)
One final thing Colin wanted to bring up is the PVP Leaderboards. “Who’s the Best?” is the big question about any game’s competitive PVP. There are so many things they still want to add (spectator mode being one that’s coming along really well, I’m told), that the Leaderboards are really just the tip of the iceberg (there’s that phrase again). It had the fun aspect, the Glory, the weapons, the cosmetic gear. But the other pieces and tools are still to come. They’re very excited to say it’s all coming, with Matchmaking last month, and now Leaderboards, and soon Spectator Mode are all helping Guild Wars 2 towards having the eSport part of the game that was intended from the start.
When the Leaderboards go live you’ll be able to view rankings by Friends, Guild, Server, and Region. There won’t be a worldwide US and EU combined, at least yet. And when I asked Colin if you could scope out who was the best say, Asuran Engineer in the world (rankings by race and profession), he laughed and said “Not initially! But it’s certainly something they’re looking into for future updates.”
In all, it sounds like The Razing is a hit with most players, though there are of course the folks who disliked changes to their profession (though my Engineer isn’t complaining). Have you jumped back into World vs. World or experienced the Living Story updates? What do you think so far? Let us know below!
Bill Murphy / Bill Murphy is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.